'I agreed to 1967 borders, divide Jerusalem'
Former PM Ehud Olmert says Abbas a true peace partner, could have reached deal based on 1949 armistice lines in 2008.
Arutz Sheva Staff, 03/09/18 16:02
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert praised Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in an interview with i24NEWS' Arabic program: "It's not too late to fix things. I'll call him. I think he's a great leader. I tell him now if he wants us to meet to do it together - I'm ready for that, too."
Olmert praised the security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (PA): "The only terror that exists is in areas that Israel controls, not the Palestinian Authority, so all the Israeli security forces tell me that the Palestinian Authority is cooperating in the struggle against terror."
"I think that Abu Mazen (Abbas) - contrary to what all sorts of elements that do not really want a peace agreement between us and the Palestinians try to say - Abu Mazen was a partner, even when he made mistakes. In my case he made a serious mistake, but he was a partner and he remains a partner." the former prime minister added.
According to Olmert, Israel's repeated territorial withdrawals have strengthened the Jewish State's international standing: "The fact that Israel left territories where it controlled the lives of other people has brought tremendous prestige in the world. It creates a system of expectations for political progress and laid the foundation for negotiations between me and the Palestinian Authority on the basis of the knowledge among Palestinians that Israel is willing to withdraw from territories, that Israel is willing to accept the two-state solution."
"There was no stronger proof of our desire to implement such a solution than the negotiations I had with Abu Mazen, in which I proposed to him an Israeli withdrawal of 95 percent of the territory and a territorial exchange in order to bring the territorial arrangement to the basis of the 1967 borders.
"The plan that I proposed and I am sure that if you turn to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he will confirm word for word what I am saying to you now: I proposed a territorial solution on the basis of the 1967 borders with a territorial exchange of 5-6%. In other words, we could have been more flexible in the future if we had finished the negotiations, but the intention was that it would be on the basis of the 1967 borders," Olmert explained.
Olmert elaborated further on the concessions he was willing to make. "I was prepared for the Arab part of Jerusalem to be the capital of the Palestinian state. For me, Beit Hanina, and the Shuafat refugee camp, Jabel Mukaber, Issawiya and all these Arab neighborhoods are part of the state of Palestine and they can be what the Palestinian leadership wanted, a declaration that Jerusalem is the Palestinian capital. That is, there is Jewish Jerusalem, which is the capital of Israel, and there are other parts that are now part of Jerusalem, which I suggested would be part of the Palestinian state."
"Another thing I suggested after deep thought and great heartache, not with joy or with great passion, but with an understanding of the inescapable reality: I suggested that the 'Holy Basin,' The entire part of Jerusalem that includes the holy sites of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, that in this part there will be no sovereignty of any country, not the sovereignty of the State of Israel, neither the sovereignty of the Palestinian state nor the sovereignty of any other entity.
Olmert said that he believes the other countries in the Middle East should be part of the agreement with the PA. "Saudi Arabia, which I believe has a great desire to bring about a political settlement in the Middle East, and I think that its current leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is making very significant efforts to create normalization in the international atmosphere of the Middle East. I think Jordan under the leadership of King Abdullah II, whom I consider both a personal friend and a great leader, along with the Palestinians, the State of Israel and the United States, should have put together this international trust that was entrusted by the UN to manage the Holy Basin. The Holy Basin - the Old City, the Mosques' Area, the Church Area, the Western Wall area - would administered with absolute freedom of access to believers of all religions but not subject to the sovereignty of any country. "
"We reached an understanding of the security needs of the State of Israel, and we presented this to both the Palestinians and the Americans, and there was full understanding of these security needs, and I agreed to solve the Arab refugee problem within the framework of the Arab League peace initiative or proposal, which was adopted once in 2002 in Beirut and the second time in 2007. In other words, I accepted the Arab peace initiative as the basis or framework for settling the refugee problem, and I also said that I would be ready to absorb about 1,000 Palestinians a year for five years as part of the Arab peace proposal."
Olmert believes that it was possible to resolve the refugee issue as well: "It could be that there was room for flexibility here with regard to the number of Palestinians we would have absorbed. Had the negotiations been completed, we would have reached this point. I offered my suggestions and put them on the table. I brought a precise map that presents the proposed borders when the Palestinian state stretches out of one-to-one areas the size of the territories that existed before 1967, and also the crossing between Israel and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which did not exist before. I never received an answer from Mahmoud Abbas on this proposal. "
Olmert recalls how he pleaded with Abbas to accept the peace proposal: "In our conversation, a very moving conversation, and in my opinion, a historic conversation, I think a conversation like never before, and I very much hope there will be another like it, I said: "Mr. President, this is a proposal that maybe no other Israeli leader will offer you for 50 years, sign it on the map!" He said, 'Give me a few days, and he did not get back to me."
Olmert slammed the current government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. "I am very worried that Netanyahu's positions are different, but if Abu Mazen says he supports this plan, it will be a message of tremendous strength to millions of Israelis who have doubts about whether they have a Palestinian leadership willing to make an arrangement. If the current Israeli government wants to reach an agreement that can be reached, but they also have doubts about the Palestinian willingness, if Abu Mazen announces now, "I am willing to come to negotiate to complete the negotiations that began with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, Ehud Olmert, 'it will cause a tremendous shock in the State of Israel. Do it! "
Olmert explained why he believes Netanyahu cannot lead Israel: "I think that Binyamin Netanyahu can not run the country - not because of the investigations, but because he is not suited to running the state, because his positions on the crucial issues of the State of Israel are positions that do not correspond with my understanding, and the understanding of many others, of the real interests of the State of Israel. I think that he is leading the State of Israel to an eternal conflict between us and the Arab world and the Palestinian world. "
Olmert says that he believes that there will be a change in Israeli society. "We, the residents of the State of Israel, are convinced that we will eventually change this direction. We will change the leadership and change this direction. It's not a matter of asking for help from someone outside. We will not turn to an outside party and say, 'Come help us.' We will know how to do it. We will change the direction, we will work to make peace, we will have full equality of rights between all the residents of the State of Israel. The State of Israel will be a democratic, Jewish state, not a conqueror, but a state that makes peace, maintains a way of life that brings blessing and joy to its residents and neighbors "
On the Nationality Law, Olmert said: "What do I think of the recent laws, which in my opinion are intolerable laws, they undermine the moral value of the State of Israel and must be annulled."